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Two Miners Dead After Mine Collapse Traps Them Underground Patriot Coal

Two Miners Dead After Mine Collapse Traps Them Underground

A West Virginia mine with a history of violations becomes a tomb for two miners.

A ground failure at Patriot Coal’s Brody Mine No. 1 cost two miners their lives on May 12. The men were trapped when the mine collapsed on top of them.

Eric D. Legg, 48, of Twilight, W.Va., and Gary P. Hensley, 46, of Chapmanville, W.Va., died when what MSHA called a “ground failure” and the state Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training called a “coal outburst” buried them in the mine. 

West Viriginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said he and his wife “extend our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the two miners – Eric and Gary – who lost their lives in this tragic mining accident.  We ask all West Virginians to continue praying for them during this very difficult time for our mining community.”

MSHA found 250 “significant and substantial” violations from July 31, 2012 to August 31, 2013 at the mine. The MSHA audit determined that employees logged nearly 1,800 lost work days during that time as a result of injuries and that more than 350 lost work days were from unreported injuries. A separate MSHA audit in 2012 found 29 injuries that were not reported by the company.

MSHA sent the mine owners a letter last October that stated, in part, “These groups of violations, taken alone or together, constitute a pattern of violations of mandatory health and safety standards in the coal or other mine which are of such nature as could have significantly and substantially contributed to the cause and effect of coal or other mine health or safety hazards.”

Patriot acquired Brody Mining, LLC (Brody) in December 2012.  Prior to that time, Brody was owned and operated by an independent company. 

According to a statement issued by Patriot at the time MSHA issued its report, many of the violations and the severity measure cited by MSHA took place under the prior owner. “Immediately following Patriot’s purchase of Brody, on Jan. 3, 2013, the company submitted a compliance improvement plan to MSHA.  Since that time, the Brody mine compliance performance (as measured by violations per inspector day) has improved by 40 percent,” said the company in the statement.

Patriot said all former officers and key mine-level managers at Brody were replaced shortly after the purchase was concluded. On Sept. 6, 2013, Patriot submitted a corrective action plan to MSHA to further improve safety and compliance at the Brody mine.  Subsequently, on Sept. 17, 2013, MSHA approved the submitted corrective action plan.

“During the period of time it has operated as a Patriot subsidiary, the Brody mine has made considerable and measurable progress toward improved safety and compliance,” noted the statement from Patriot.

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